How listening to birds can rehabilitate a child’s ability to pay attention

How listening to birds can rehabilitate a child’s ability to pay attention

“Birds help my ears learn how to listen.”

How listening to birds can rehabilitate a child’s ability to pay attention.

“Would you like to hear my story?” My little friend asks. I nod and she begins, reading in a tone that is more oracle than five year old:

“Once upon a time, there are birds.”

My mouth falls open.

She continues,

“Once upon a time, there are trees.”

I choke back tears.

“Once upon a time there are flowers.”

My eyes meet with her mothers’ and I study the electricity in this child’s smile. There is an aliveness in her. She beams at me while I think about other children I know and work with…Read more at audubon.org

“The sky is so clear I can almost see god.”

“The sky is so clear I can almost see god.”

It’s been just two weeks since India went on full lockdown and reports tell us people there are saying things like,

“The sky is so clear I can almost see God.”

Older people in populous cities around the globe are saying they haven’t seen the blue sky in decades, which means there is an entire generation of young people, not just in India, but in cities around the world who before this moment, haven’t known the sky as blue.

When I was a young girl I frequently looked to the sky for answers, laying on my back to escape a growing pain in my challenged world. Under the tendril arms of a Weeping Willow tree, in one of the many backyards we moved to, I would often wonder out loud, speaking directly to the clouds floating by,

“Can I see god? Can god see me?”

Would I have wondered that if I hadn’t been drawn into the sky’s calling to explore its timelessness and beauty? Sometimes I was drawn to stare at the sky for the pure beauty it poured into every little cell in my body. Sometimes it was to escape the growing pain behind my ribs, right above my heart.

It was from this little backyard, that I first heard my father singing a song that made me, my brothers and my mother all laugh.The song was written by a man named John Prine who’s music became a balm for that pain in my little heart.

“Sing the one where they blow up their TV and move to the country!” I would shout at my Dad when he picked up his guitar. When our extended family got together, my brothers, and my cousins would shout, “Sing please don’t bury me!” in an effort to help us make sense of the human condition we were learning to both lean into and avoid.

Mr. Prine sang of love, death, farts, clowns, dreams, heaven, hell and all the longings a young or old heart could hold. His songs helped me, my brothers, and cousins make sense of our mother’s tears, our grandmother’s strength and our father’s rage; why alcohol and marijuana had become staples in most of our homes.

At family gatherings, among the awe of stars and annoyance of mosquitos, my uncles and aunts shook their heads laughing as they sang his songs, uniting a common sadness while threading hope into us kids. Like the clouds in the sky, his songs eased the sharp edges of lives wrought with hunger, depression, abuse, and for my nuclear family, moments of homelessness. Laughing came more easily when Mr. Prine’s songs erupted into a chorus of voices around the fire. His weaving of heaviness and lightness gave us permission to choose and accept joy, the way we accepted our parents’ pain. Smacking mosquitoes in the humid Ontario summer nights became worth the cost of welts the size of quarters, just to feel that kind of joy and connection with each other, and the stars.

The weeping willow, the blue sky, the night stars, and John Prine, are entwined with the memory of my mother sitting fully clothed, her yellow bell bottom jeans soaking wet with my brother held between her legs in the bathtub as a steam of water filled the air. I remember standing in the steamy bathroom, watching my brother’s chest heave and gasp as his asthmatic lungs began to breathe, the color from his lips turn from blue to pink again. John’s lyrics, “sitting in the bathtub counting my toes when the radiator broke, water all froze, got stuck in the ice without any clothes, naked as the eyes of a clown,” popped into my head and somehow, made it all seem OK. It marks the first time that music eased a moment like that, and it laid down a track in my brain that showed music was medicine the same way the willow, the blue sky and the stars could be.

I read today that the Himalayas can be seen for the first time in decades from miles away, showing the sky, the moon, the stars and the possibility that exists right before young wondering eyes. I wonder if Mr. Prine was able to see out a window from his hospital bed and see the stars shine bright? What might he have written about this moment?

Mr. Prine once said in an interview about writing songs that, “Sometimes, the best ones come together at the exact same time, and it takes about as long to write it as it does to sing it. They come along like a dream or something, and you just got to hurry up and respond to it, because if you mess around, the song is liable to pass you by.”

What might we do not to let this moment pass us by?

We could say it is a moment of introduction between one generation and the sky, between the generation who may not have noticed how blue, or bright or inspiring it is. They were born into a world where normal is a sky occluded by pollution, time is invaded by busyness and wonder is seen as idleness.

What if we could stop for a moment and recognize that this generation may for the first time be seeing the sky as blue, taking their first clear breath, hearing the first birdsong, and we are rediscovering the medicine of sky, music, breath?

What if we just hurried up and wrote a new song for this moment? One that would live into the future, as all Mr. Prine’s will? What if we didn’t wait for the next pandemic? What if, instead of Earth day, we had Earth month? A once a year Global Holiday Month to put it all on pause and remember those like Mr. Prine, the one’s we’ve lost, and to show the young ones a blue sky, the night stars, the bird song? What if we didn’t mess around and let this moment pass us by?

Imagine if every year, there was one month that both the breath of people and nature could just pause, and exhale and remember together what is possible? Maybe the losses wouldn’t be so huge? And wouldn’t that be a real step towards equity? If we can think it, we can be it.

Kathleen Lockyer is an occupational therapist, writer, mother, and passionate leader in the movement to help children and families rediscover our inter-dependence between nature and child development. You can contact her at [email protected]

When Rachel Carson said this…

I

In 1962 a woman named Rachel Carson wrote a book called Silent Spring.

It was an alarm call for taking a hard look at the serious consequences that were happening from the rampant and common practice of spraying toxic chemicals. It may seem obvious now that killing the plants and pests might also kill the birds, animals, and ourselves. But back then, it wasn’t obvious.

Rachel Carson sounded an alarm that took nearly 60 years for many people to hear.

I recently re-read Silent Spring and stopped and cried when I read this line:

“How will we tell the children that the birds are disappearing?”

My tears were for a different reason than what worried Ms. Carson.

Rewind to my life ten and a half years prior. I stood in my backyard and said out loud:

“I can do anything for five years.”

My kids were 9 and 12 and I chose to take a job I didn’t like. Our family had suffered the death of my intimate partner and I needed to stabilize us. Seven years after I took the job I was still there, a whole two years past its expiration date.

When the girls are older. When things get easier. When life slows down.

I heard myself saying all these things. Life kept going.

Then one day, I went to the job, ‘occupational therapist at a public school.’

I did what I always did\; took the children on my caseload outside for therapy. On this day I asked each of the 7 children who I worked with (individually) the same questions:

“Point to the nearest bird you see,” and each child did the same thing. They stopped, looked and then said:

“There are no birds.”

I then asked: “Point to the nearest bird you hear.” they closed their eyes and listened and then said

“There are no birds.”

Then I asked, as each one stood in the center of dozens of Dandelions: “Point to the nearest Dandelion.”

They said: “What’s a Dandelion?”

When I got home that day, I realized my kids kept getting older. Life wasn’t slowing down.

That is the day I vowed to sound an alarm for the children and the birds, and for my future grandchildren.

When I read Ms. Carson’s question I cried because today, her worry is almost a mute point.

Many children do not see the birds. Many do not hear the birds.

“Birds don’t matter,” a young child recently told me.

Children don’t pick Dandelion heads, or lay in the grass daydreaming into clouds.

Aaaaannnnnd…

Science tells us that children are losing their senses. This is not a coincidence.

One in five children is diagnosed with a developmental disorder.

As we lose species, habitat and birds, the children are losing their senses. One is deeply tied to the other. The senses are the pathway to healthy development. The senses are our pathway to connecting with nature. Tug on one end, and the other unravels.

Children are unravelling, but, it is not too late. Science reminds us that children are wired to connect and those ancient wirings are still running their neurological systems! They are designed for excellence.

Aaaannnnd, they are resilient.

With so many kids struggling, and almost every parent I talk with challenged by some difficult or curious behavior their child is expressing, we need nature more than ever. The thing is, behavior is a symptom of an underlying skill deficit. These deficits are often unseen developmental needs and nature knows how to help.

CLICK HERE TO Join one of our webinars to learn more!

Mitigating the stress of environmental threats.

Mitigating the stress of environmental threats.

Kathleen Lockyer believes that to change the world we need to break out of our own boxes, bridge the best of the past with the best of the present, and that a better future is within our reach. She has been an occupational therapist for over 25 years and has raised two fiercely amazing daughters who are now the kind of young women that she loves to hike, camp, snowboard, road-trip and just grab lunch or dinner with! She has a very funny dog named “Charlie Murphy” and many nicknames -among them are “Mama K” and “Auntie K.”

Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones. Thich Nhat Hanh

Running towards the chicken coop I expected to see a fox. What I saw instead was a huge tawny colored cat much larger than my 70 pound dog. It leapt with a ferocity as intense as the sound it made slamming into the wood structure of the coop. From 25 feet away I could see the muscle definition in the shoulders of the Mountain Lion as it crouched and jumped. The thud it made when it landed back on the ground still echoes in my ears. My entire body slammed itself into a freeze frame and yet I was surprised that awe and curiosity were stronger than fear. The adrenaline in my limbs held me in alertness and a thought occurred to me: True fear leaves no time to feel afraid.

Every hair on my skin was alert, my eyes were clear and sharp as they scanned the coop that was partially hidden by bushes to shade our chickens from the sun. Did it get out? My ears felt pointed like when deer listen. What are the birds saying (and not saying)? Is the lion still in the coop? Where is it?

I have come face to face with true fear a number of times over the years, twice with a mountain lion, once with a bear, and twice with a rattlesnake. I call it true fear because my body reacts as though it is in mortal danger, which it is. This kind of fear has been a true gift in that I can now identify the fearful “what if” thinking that causes me anxiety and the true fear of “get safe now.” The get safe now kind of fear passes when the threat is over, the “What if” keeps me up all night and makes me stink with sweat. Both kinds of fear cause stress on the body. The human system was designed to deal with threats by putting the body into a stress state so it can move quickly, avoid the threat and return to a calm state or baseline for the majority of time.

The challenge in our modern times is that there are so many “what if’s” that most people live in a constant state of low grade anxiety and therefore constant stress. Our systems are not designed for this kind of constant “possible” threat scenario that never quite returns to a peaceful baseline. The Harvard Center for the Developing Child talks about different types of stress and names them as positive (healthy) which is like what happened to me with the mountain lion, and toxic which can result from “what if.”

There is a lot I am not telling you about my experiences with these animals, or how I integrated the interactions to help me be more calm, or what I have done to mitigate stress in my life and with the children I work with. What I can say is that my years of practicing active listening –to birds and animals, scanning the ground and the bushes with my eyes and engaging with the environment I live in all supported the integration of these mortal threats in a way that allows me to be more calm than I was before them.

It may sound counter intuitive but it actually makes great sense when one understands the inner workings of our neurology, brain patterning and our developmental processes.

Are you interested in learning more about how to up level your environmental awareness and decrease stress?

In my trainings I show how new scientific research supports the core routines of nature connection and I teach practices that mitigate toxic stress for yourself and for the children you love or work with.

 

LEARN MORE BY CLICKING HERE

 

What About The Teenagers?

What About The Teenagers?


“A weed is a plant whose virtue is yet to be discovered.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jenny joined our nature immersion program after her mother chose to take her out of school at the end of 6th grade. Worried about Jenny’s mental health, her mother felt that the current ‘system’ seemed to contribute to the many challenges young girls, and some of Jenny’s friends in the local, relatively wealthy district seemed to suffer from: bulimia, anorexia, early sexual activity, chronic fatigue, alcohol, drugs, etc. Jenny had recently suffered a traumatic event and her mother understood the impact this event could have on an already struggling pre-teen afloat in the sea of teen challenges.  

When I first met Jenny, she was a highly intelligent yet quiet and anxious anxious young woman. The light in her eyes was barely a distant flicker and, “I’m sorry” was part of almost everything she said.  Hesitation was saddled to most things she did. When asked about the “incident” she shrugged and said: “haha, yea it was pretty crazy,” and then changed the subject.

A couple of months after first meeting her, a group of kids lazed in the green of May grasses and I took the opportunity address the concept of resiliency. Instead of lecturing, I wove a fantastical story of the common Dandelion as inspired by two famous herbalists, Rosemary Gladstar and Susun Weed. The story had drama, suspense and humor, and brought life to the powerful resiliency of the Dandelion.  I watched as Jenny listened intently, lying on her stomach in the grass with her head resting on her forearms. Every now and then she would look up to catch my animated antics and her eyes would widen, a half smile catching her lips.

When I saw Jenny next, her sullen demeanor had changed to a now beaming smile lighting up everything around her, her hair flowing in the wind as she ran down the hill to greet me.  I could see she was holding something in her hands. As she came closer, I saw a haphazard mess of dirt and greens falling out of a ceramic cereal bowl and one, bright, wilting, yellow flower in the center.  Her mother trailed a few feet behind with a look that was both flustered and full. Jenny pushed the bowl in my direction and said:

“I found  this in my yard and wanted to dig it up for you because you love Dandelions so much!”

 From behind, her mother shrugged and exhaled as she said:

“The reason we were late.”

I looked at Jenny, alive – the flickering light was now a full flame.

“It just showed up in my front yard!”

Her voice said, louder than I remember it.

It was as if the resilience of the little yellow flower, the one that can withstand feet stomping it, cars and bikes driving on it, toxic chemicals sprayed on it, and even floods, had rooted its lessons deeply into Jenny’s waning heart and revived the light in her eyes.  From that day forward it was clear she was changed – lighter, easier to laugh, and leaving the hesitation in her intelligent curiosity behind her.

Our Nature Sense is so supportive of our mental health needs that I never had to have a direct conversation with Jenny about her heart, her anxiety, or her insecurity. All I did was walk Jenny into the wisdom of nature and trust that she would find her own answers among the weeds.

Many teenagers  today seem to be in a soul deficit, with a longing they can’t identify. They have been raised with an overabundance of bad news and a lack of a positive future vision.  It’s as if they learn about death before they get a chance to live.

“Among adolescents and young adults, suicide is responsible for more deaths than the combination of cancer, heart disease, congenital anomalies, respiratory disease, influenza, pneumonia, stroke, meningitis, septicemia, HIV, diabetes, anemia, and kidney and liver disease”

(John Campo, MD)

        It is a fact that we don’t pay attention to boring things.  Humans can muster the energy to focus for a lecture or a task that their higher brain overrides as boring, but it is an inefficient task at best, and likely, details are soon forgotten. Meaning is lost. Think of a lecture that you were required (not inspired) to sit for. What do you remember about it? How many details of the content? Likely you are thinking about how the room looked, smelled or what you were wearing. Maybe if there was a particular topic, you remember one specific fact. Other than that, the entire length of time you were charged with sitting, is a mystery to your memory. How is it that our society has managed to take the most alive, impassioned and curious members of it and BORE  THEM TO DEATH!??? What would happen if instead, we allowed each “Jenny” to have one day a week to experience the aliveness of the natural world? If instead of lecturing them, we showed them what life could feel and look like? What if we trusted that with a little bit of guided nature connection, they could find their own answers?

        The answers to teenagers lacking motivation and vision are laid out before us the way a meadow offers a superbloom of spring flowers after a drought. Even after years of little to no rain, one good soaking, followed by a little sun, and a teenager will bloom- because that is what they are designed to do.

They are designed to watch, listen, touch, smell, taste, balance, move, feel- these are the gifts nature has put in our growth bundle of nerves and cells in an effort to design an intelligence that supports our best self and is at one with all other species on this earth.  When this is reintroduced to a starving system, good things happen.

Let’s make good things available to all teenagers.





Don’t Sleep Like A Baby!

Don’t Sleep Like A Baby!

Guest Author: Heather Boyd, Occupational Therapist

There was a time in the early months of parenting when I counted my son’s sleep in minutes. Not hours, not half hours, and not even quarters of an hour.  Minutes. I wrote down these minutes on scraps of paper in the dark while soothing and breastfeeding my son. I scanned this list of digits, also in the dark, hoping to see some trend, however minuscule, towards longer sleep periods.  Hoping to see some indication that he was sleeping longer and, by extension, that I could sleep longer too. If he slept even two minutes longer I felt maybe something had improved…. Instead of seeing improvement, though, I saw a deflating list of double digits that represented wakings that also were numbered in the double digits every night.

These early days of parenting had moments of pure bliss, and smittenness at my beautiful, plump, and amazing baby.  He was gorgeous. He breastfed voraciously. He was so lovely to hold, to gaze at, to soak in. The moments of bliss were competing, however, against colic and my baby’s need to breastfeed constantly; his need to be held till nearly midnight every night.  The evenings consisted of momentary relief when my baby finally fell into a deep sleep in my arms, followed by near tears on my part at having to choose between competing priorities: go to bed immediately for 30 minutes of sleep, or get ready for bed and brush my teeth first, leaving me with only 20 minutes of sleep.  I dreaded this decision. It seemed cruel that I had to choose.

My first born was, without a doubt, a baby who spit up a lot.  However, the conventional wisdom at the time, reinforced by my training as an Occupational Therapist in a neonatal follow-up clinic, was that plump spitter-uppers were laundry problems, not medical problems.  And so I soldiered on, assuming this was what “they” were talking about when they said you’ll be tired, that babies don’t sleep. I focused on attachment-based strategies of nurturing and meeting the need –strategies that are foundational for any baby, but perhaps even more critical (albeit less fruitful early on) for babies in pain.  I occasionally filled out infant reflux checklists which had the same questions that I asked parents themselves to fill out when they came to me for their appointments.  I ruled out reflux repeatedly based on a lack of empirical evidence, despite my nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. I trusted the checklists more than my own instincts.  I hadn’t had to rely on instincts to assess a baby before. But I hadn’t had to do this as a mom before either.

These early days were relentlessly exhausting –the fatigue was physically torturous and did nothing for my lofty, if naive, goals to learn to play guitar or do something else in addition to mothering during my maternity leave.

But my drive to figure it out was relentless, too.  I wanted to find a way to parent through this that resonated with my expanding knowledge of attachment theory and bonding while also “solving” this sleep problem.  But first I had to figure out if this was a problem: was this normal sleep challenges of a typical baby?  Or was this something more?

This led me to read everything I could find about how to nurture better sleep. Before motherhood, infant-mother attachment had been very theoretical.  Now, however, it was a practical matter. There wasn’t a shortage of books to read on the topic. The Continuum Concept, the Dr. Sear’s Baby Sleep Book, Elizabeth Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution: these amazing books each offered ways to meet baby’s emotional needs and biological sleep tendencies.  But they didn’t seem to work.

They didn’t seem to work because they were not designed to explore and identify underlying health issues.   In hindsight, however, they did buy me time. They supported my burgeoning instincts to nurture, to meet the need, and to not worry about spoiling a wee baby.  These books bought me time to try things out (chiropractor, osteopath, attempts at diet changes) while still absolutely and undeniably meeting my baby’s need for comfort from me, even if that comfort seemed purely emotional, rather than the comfort that would have come from receiving proper medical advice to treat reflux.

I’ve reflected on why I failed to “fix” the issue of my son’s poor sleep -not in a guilt-laden way, but in a way that asks what pieces were missing that, if in place, would have soothed him, and would have smoothed the edges of fatigue and helplessness.  Circumstances were simply not in my favour, and I worked within their limits. If my empathetic and skilled social worker-cum-family doctor had not started mat leave at the same time as me…If I’d read “Solve Your Child’s Colic” in those early days (which asserts that dairy and soy sensitivity is the main culprit in colic), instead of after our second was born…If our new physician hadn’t been so opposed to treating reflux in a healthy chubby baby…  Perhaps I would have avoided such extreme sleep deprivation and prevented such awful nights of undertreated colic. But I didn’t have these resources. And I did the best I could.

Mothering was exhausting in a way that makes the word exhausting seem so inadequate.  And it was bearable only because I had emotional support — from family, but in particular from a new mom friend who lived nearby and who valued attachment theory.  She was compassionate, and also at arms length –able to see the big picture and pour me another mug of coffee.

Infant sleep (or the lack thereof) is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges of early parenthood.  A google search I did recently of “How do I get my baby…..” came back with 4 of the top 5 ‘hits’ related to sleep.  The only one that wasn’t about sleep was “How do I get my baby into modeling”. I have a theory on that. Those parents who are googling about baby modeling have babies who have finally fallen asleep; they are staring lovingly at their beautiful, angelic, sleeping baby and, in the glow of the moonlight basking their peaceful wee one, whisper to themselves,  “my baby is the most beautiful baby in the world”. The rest of us are googling “what on earth can I do to make this better?”.

Before being initiated into the world of infant sleep we, as soon-to-be-parents, are superficially aware of the idea of sleep deprivation.  However, it is virtually impossible to understand just how physically painful, and emotionally exhausting this sleep deprivation is. Like understanding what giving birth is like, there was simply no way for me to know what fatigue actually feels like without experiencing it. No all-nighter to finish an essay for school, or staying up to watch the sunrise, or an international flight with jet lag can compare to the ongoing (and ever changing) circumstances that make sleep deprivation as a parent so challenging.

I have come to believe that it does not need to be as tough as it is.  That even with medical issues underlying sleep, there are cultural factors that make sleep deprivation with a baby more challenging than it needs to be:

  1. We believe babies should be sleeping through the night by 4 months (or 6 weeks, or at least by 6 months).  When they don’t sleep through the night we believe that we are making mistakes with our parenting;
  2. We believe babies are supposed to develop sleep skills at an even pace and never slide backwards on this march towards independent sleep.  When a previously “good sleeper” needs more support we think we need to “do something” to fix this;
  3. We believe (or convince ourselves) that if sleep is really going poorly that it must be something we are doing wrong.  We may not consider fully enough (or have the right supports to pursue the idea) that there is something medical going on;
  4. We believe we need to control our child’s sleep, that somehow we are in charge of getting them to sleep;
  5. We believe meeting their need for support at bedtime (whether at 6 weeks or 6 years) develops bad habits;
  6. We believe that babies need to learn to self-soothe; and
  7. We believe if we don’t fix, enforce, address, or deal with our infant’s sleep we are setting ourselves and our children up for years of disordered sleep.  Whether this comes in the form of “our baby will never leave our bed”, or “they need to be independent to be successful”, the result is the same: a burden that, based on research evidence, we don’t actually need to carry.

So what can replace these myths?   Here is what I have figured out as a mom and an Occupational Therapist/Sleep Educator.  If I could go back and wrap my arms around my new-mama self I would share with her that:

  1. Babies have two irreducible sleep needs.  These needs are to be close to mama (or other key caregiver) and to wake up often.  These aren’t negotiable needs. They are needs driven by biology and that shift over time through neurological development.  Trying to eliminate or speed through these needs is like trying to time travel. Theoretically it sounds nice (and I do love my share of books about time travel), but there are consequences to skipping out on nature’s plans.  Sharing a room with babe for at least the first six months (and ideally 12 months) are the current guidelines; other evidence reinforces much longer even than this. And, serendipitously, room sharing also makes it easier to meet that need to wake up often, while also supporting breastfeeding.  Mother nature is one smart cookie.
  2. Mama instincts count for a lot.  Although it can feel overwhelming, and we feel the confusion of messages that conflict with our instincts, underneath the layers are instincts that we can tap into to help guide us.
  3. Support makes all the difference.  When we can’t hear our instincts over the background noise of cultural messages or maternal anxiety and depression, a single supportive person can make all the difference.  We need someone who will listen, who empathizes, and who can see the whole picture and help us navigate. Someone who understands our values and priorities, and who can cut through the mixed messages to provide reassurance, concrete strategies, and give us perspective can change everything. When you are in the deep end as a new mama, your swimming skills don’t matter.  You still need a hand to pull you out. Despite our skills and knowledge and ability to problem solve, we need support. We are too close to problem solve our way out of sleep challenges.
  4. Time in nature makes sleep better –indeed, makes everything feel better.  What has become so clear through this personal journey is that all of us in our family sleep so soundly when we are camping: we pay attention to the rhythms of nature, and we let our rhythm fall in sync with that.  With no electricity, no screen, no lights other than our flashlights, we are in bed and drifting off to sleep by 9pm. We are not up washing the dishes or wiping down the counters –these things are done immediately after dinner, and with minimal kitchen items we have minimal clean up.*  We are also not using television or facebook as our way of relaxing.
  5. You are not screwing this up.  Although it can start to feel trite to hear that you aren’t destroying your child’s chance at healthy sleep, there is truth to it.  Babies grow, they develop, their entire neurology and sleep cycles and brains change. And they change in ways that respond to their environment.  If you are aware of your priorities to provide responsive parenting that meets your baby’s needs, you are giving your baby what they need in ways nature intended.
  6. This is a 1000+ day project. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to solve sleep problems tonight.  To think that how our baby sleeps today is indicative of how they will sleep in two years.  To think that lying down with our children now will mean they will not be able to sleep alone when they are 12.  It doesn’t work that way. This is a multi-year project of mistakes and learning, infant development and mama personal growth.  Taking the long slow path allows us to not sweat the minute to minute issues. It allows us to truly lean in to the need at this moment, without fear or reservation.
  7. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.   It’s easier to ignore messaging around infant sleep if you reflect on whether what is happening in your own family is working for you.  If it is, carry on, regardless of whether it meets the expectations of extended family, friends, or the latest book on sleep training.  Day by day we can meet the need and feel good that it is reflecting our priorities to nurture our babies.
  8. If it’s not working, change it.  If what is happening day by day by day is frustrating and leaves us feeling resentful, then it’s time to look at changing it.  How we do that takes some thought and reflection, and change can be hard. But there is no need to be a martyr. Make the changes needed to respect everyone’s needs, including your own.
  9. Little pieces of self care adds up.  Self care does not need to be a day at the spa, or a girls’ weekend away.  These things are lovely, there is no doubt, but are not necessary and not always possible.  Find as many ways during the day to catch a moment of self care to fill your cup. Taking a slow deep breath before heading out the door, enjoy the moment (even if it is a minute) to prepare a hot tea before babe wakes up. By living in the present and enjoying what is immediately in front of you, it may be easier to relish it in a way that allows you to sustain the feeling of peace and balance.  Acknowledging brief moments of self care can add up to be a sustainable ‘filling of your cup’ throughout the day…You don’t need to save up extraordinary amounts of time for this to happen.
  10. Be the Mama Bear: If your gut is telling you there is something interfering with your baby’s sleep, listen.  Even if it whispers quietly. Listen and reflect, and don’t let your brain get in your way on this one.  Pay attention to the questions that push you along the path of who to connect with to find answers.

Now, 9 years later, I have a bright, and empathetic kiddo who….drum roll….sleeps well.  He prefers to stay up “late” (9pm), who would like to have his own room (he shares with his brothers), and who will say “I’m tired.  I want to fall to sleep now” –magic words to a mama who was worried my kiddo would never sleep.

*One of my favourite parts about camping is that there is no kitchen floor to sweep!


Heather is an Occupational Therapist, a spouse, and a mom to three young boys. Her mission is to offer family-centered, attachment-based tools for families of infants and young children to thrive in nurturing and healthy environments. Heather places great value on attachment theory and nurture-based parenting practices that support the biological, evolutionary, and developmental needs of infants and young children. She envisions making a difference to families by helping them focus on how they can improve their child’s environment through nurturing parenting approaches, and healthy homes.

YOU CAN REACH HEATHER AT HER WEBSITE: www.heatherboyd.org